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MEP Life 12 – Conference, Chuka and more money for Erasmus

Greetings from Strasbourg. This week, MEPs were back at work, while the UK parliament continues to be suspended, with MPs unable to work together to solve the Brexit mess.

Last week began in Brussels, where I met with other MEPs to talk about budget proposals for the Erasmus + and Horizon 2020 programme. I am delighted to report that the Education and Culture committee (CULT), which is responsible for Erasmus, and the Industry, Research and Energy committee (ITRE), responsible for Horizon 2020, have recommended significant increases of funding to both programmes. The budget increases of €20m and €100m went to Parliament for confirmation this week, as part of the EU budget, and – spoiler alert – they were approved. The overall budget proposal now goes to the Council, where I hope our political leaders will approve the funding increases. If there are proposals for cuts or changes, at least we have ensure that negotiation with regard to these important programmes starts from a strong base.

Friday, I was back in the UK in the Reading office, with my team, preparing for the Apprentices trip to Brussels in October. Due to the success of the trip in the South East we are extending the event to some South West Apprentices, also. This is a subsidised trip to Brussels with almost all expenses paid and the deadline is Friday.

If you are an apprentice and you have not yet applied to join us on the trip, please click here and get your application in! If you know apprentices who are >18 years or employers who have apprentice in the South East, please pass on this newsletter and share THIS LINK.

Saturday saw the start of the Liberal Democrat party conference, and what a conference it was. 

Any conference rally is a ra-ra event, meant to invigorate members and supporters. But this year, with 900 first timers along for the ride, the atmosphere was extraordinary. We had a great line up of Speakers and the reception we got when we MEPs took to the stage in our Stop Brexit T shirts made me really quite tearful. Members – you are fantastic! And we appreciate your support so much.

Jo Swinson gave her first leader’s speech, which was a corker and can be seen here and right at the end, she announced that Sam Gyimah has joined the party – fantastic news. A former Tory, like the rest of our converts, Sam has always been one of the good guys.

Over the weekend, I had a chance to talk with some of the other converts, including Chuka Ummuna, who joined Caroline Voaden and me for a special Conference edition of Our MEP Life podcast. With Chuka we tackled directly the concern that our recent converts were not really Liberal Democrats – it has been great to hear from both former sides of the fence how much they are enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of a Liberal Democrat conference and feel more at home in the Lib Dems than they had for years in their former parties.

Earlier on Saturday I played hooky for a couple of hours to attend the Love EU festival at Lyndhurst, nearby in the New Forest. I spoke alongside EU Supergirl Madeleina Kay and Chris Oram from #RemainerNow – both with powerful messages to share about the importance future of a future within the EU. I spoke about the importance of our relationship with the EU as a family: “We fight, we argue, then we make up. We are still family.” Sure, the EU needs reform, but it is critical that the UK remains part of the conversation. It is extraordinary in a world where trade agreements are thrashed out with the likes of the USA and China that our government is trying to rob us of the chance to work in concert with our continental family.

At conference, I spoke at a Creative Futures event, on a panel at the UK music discussion about shared parental leave for self-employed people #SelfieLeave, and also in the debate about the importance of life-long learning.

The most fantastic news is that as a result of this debate Lib Dem education policy now introduces the new concept of PESA’s – Personal Education and Skills Allowances to be paid at 25 years old, 40 and 55 years. This is inspirational and new thinking. All credit to Layla Moran for bringing such a great idea forward.

Finally, however, I have to say that although this was a great conference – we should not have been there. With Brexit still looming and Johnson making a mess at every turn, our members of parliament – our representatives, the voice of the people – should have been in parliament, pushing probing and working together to Stop Brexit and save the UK.

We should be in the Commons, not at Conference!

Liberal Democrat members have passed an emergency motion calling on the Conservative Government to recall Parliament immediately so that it can sit until Article 50 is extended.

The motion demands that Boris Johnson asks the Queen to revoke the prorogation order, and states that future decisions about when Parliament sits should be handed to MPs.

It also renews the Liberal Democrats’ campaign for proportional representation in elections and an elected House of Lords. 

Judith Speaking at Education Debate

Judith Bunting said: “We need a new government and a new voting system. It is time to bring in proportional representation to represent properly the views of the British people. 

We have had a great conference, this year, but it is crazy for MPs of all parties to be expending energy in Conference while Westminster sits empty, in the silence of prorogation.”

In the debate, Liberal Democrat members reaffirmed their commitment to a package of reforms that would make the Government more accountable. These include giving a House Business Committee control of the Order Paper and ensuring a new Prime Minister has to win a vote of confidence before they take office.

Speaking after the motion was passed, Liberal Democrat Stop Brexit Spokesman Tom Brake MP said:

“Boris Johnson has shut down democracy and silenced people’s voices in the middle of the biggest crisis in recent history.

“MPs should be in Parliament, holding the Tory Government to account, and stopping them from trying to force the country into a disastrous no-deal Brexit. It is absurd that it may take a Supreme Court ruling to allow MPs to do their job.

“An unelected Prime Minister, with no majority, cannot be allowed to trample over our democracy. That is why Liberal Democrats have passed this motion, calling for parliament to be immediately recalled. Liberal Democrats will continue to stand up for the people.”

MEP Life 11- Parliament, Police and Proroguing

BRUSSELS

Hello to you all, as you may have noticed, MEPs were back at work in Brussels, last week. The first week of the month is committee week, and I spent my formal working time considering plans and worries around 5G, budget provision for Erasmus and Creative Europe, and plans for Energy Transition with it the EU. How can I deny, though, that my heart was in Westminster …

BREXIT

One of our first actions on return was to meet up with other UK MEPs who are supportive of a People’s Vote and to sign a cross party Brussels Declaration which indicates we were not happy with the UK Government attempting to force through a no deal Brexit on 31st October. It was great to be acting with so many people from Labour, the Greens, Independent MEPs and Naomi Long from the Northern Ireland Alliance party. Despite our differences, we are all shocked and disgusted by the approach that PM Johnson and his cabinet have taken to the role of Parliament and the prospect of a no deal Brexit. I am hugely proud of the Remain Alliance and Jo Swinson for taking control of Westminster Business and finding a legal way to stop a No Deal Brexit.

MEP Life

With Westminster in mind, Caroline Voaden and I recorded an extra podcast this week, a special edition catching up on all the remarkable moves in Westminster, last week, to control business and forestall Johnsons’s foolish actions. You can listen to it here and catch up with the usual weekly podcast, here.

Euronews was also wrapped up in Brexit, and I also took part in a phone-in for Raw Politics where we discussed the potential for national embarrassment in the face of Brexit. I made the point that the only real embarrassment we face is that, when the referendum was initially put to the country, there was no explanation of WHAT Brexit was meant to entail.

Continuing on the same theme, on Friday, I was asked for an interview by SKY News and was delighted to have a chance to raise the specific hypocrisy of Johnson giving a speech in front of Police Cadets, while proposing a no deal Brexit which would trash more than 40 different cross border legal measures, like Europol and the European Arrest Warrant, on which UK forces of law and order, depend. We already have seen horrible cuts in Police budgets. What more will disappear if Brexit goes ahead is anyone’s guess. I hear from criminologists that we will have to fall back on legal agreements drawn up in the nineteen fifties.

The background to the interview was that I was expecting a gentle, pre-recorded interview. But no. I meet the Sky team, have an ear piece put in my ear and hear ‘Live in 5 minutes.’ Now, I know we are going to be talking about Westminster and Brexit so … I asked what the questions were going to be and was put through to the gallery to hear, ‘Live in 3 minutes’. Then ‘It’s Boris Johnsons’s week, OK? Live in 2 minutes.’ And so we tumbled into the interview.

It was pretty relaxed in the end, although (since this is MEP life) it would have been nice to see a screen to know when I was on camera, but in the context of Brexit, being given an opportunity to raise Boris Johnson’s hypocrisy is everything!

(All credit to Sky, they had no notice that I was going to raise the police cadet’s speech and they still managed to slip in a cut away.)

APPRENTICES

On a more positive note, in the Newsletter last week, I launched an Apprentice’s trip to Brussels in October. Whatever happens next, Europe will be our nearest neighbour and the subsidised trip is for apprentices 18-25 to come and visit Brussels, take a look at the Parliament, and speak to people who are shaping opportunities for apprentices, trainees and businesses across Europe. If you are an apprentice or are supporting apprentices or have an apprentice in your family, there is still time to apply for a place on the apprentices visit. The application form can be found, here. Deadline is 20.09.2019 at 6pm.

If you would like to sign up for next months newsletter, please click here.

By the time I write, next week, Parliament will be prorogued. Hold on to your Democracy, we are in for a bumpy ride!

Judith & Catherine Announce…

Complete Application form
 
Judith and Catherine MEPs for the South East of England are excited to share some of the very real benefits and investments being offered to Apprentices through schemes funded by the European Parliament through a trip arranged to Brussels. 
 
The trip is for 18-25 year-old apprentices to uncover the opportunities that are available to them in Europe. The Erasmus+ scheme has helped hundreds of thousands of young apprentices experience short work placements and education exchanges in other European countries since 2014.
 
The current climate is uncertain, but, however Brexit is resolved, Europe will remain our nearest geographical trading partner and therefore we need to make sure that businesses remain informed and interconnected.

This trip is an important chance to meet other Apprentices and ask questions of key MEPs and European Commission staff who are making decisions around future business and on the job training investments that will impact you and your Apprentices.
 
To apply, get permission from your employer or place of study for the time out of the course and then fill out the application form. Looking forward to hearing from you!
 
 
 

Cross Party Declaration

A Cross Party Group of UK Members of the European Parliament has signed a Declaration committing themselves to work together in the face of brexit, and have called upon continental colleagues to support their efforts.

Meeting in Brussels, representatives of the Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Alliance, Plaid Cymru and Scottish National Party were able to sign “the Brussels Declaration” stating:

We, the undersigned UK Members of the European Parliament, representing England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, declare as follows:

The proroguing, or shutting down the UK Parliament in order to limit scrutiny of the implications of a potential no deal Brexit is completely unacceptable. Limiting the opportunity for MPs to debate, vote and crucially, to legislate, cannot be the response to a referendum in which Leave campaigned for the UK Parliament to “take back control”.

In the continuation of the spirit that UK MEPs have worked in since the 2016 Referendum we commit ourselves to continue to work across party lines and declare that it is vital that MPs do likewise.

We were all elected just four months ago with clear mandates. We are working together. We call upon our European friends and colleagues to assist domestic efforts in keeping the door open to us.

Judith Bunting said on signing the agreement; “Our MPs were elected to represent us. We voted for them, they are our voice in Westminster. To silence Parliament is to silence the voice of the people.

“I salute the Conservative MPs who last night put Country before Party, and I call on all Remainers to hold fast. Any form of Brexit would plunge the UK into another long recession which would hurt Leavers and Remainers alike. We will, we must work together to Stop Brexit.”


The Declaration was signed by:
Liberal Democrat Party
Catherine Bearder MEP
Caroline Voaden MEP
Chris Davies MEP
Phil Bennion MEP
Jane Brophy MEP
Judith Bunting MEP
Dinesh Dhamija MEP
Barbara Ann Gibson MEP
Anthony Hook MEP
Martin Horwood MEP
Shaffaq Mohammed MEP
Lucy Nethsingha MEP
Bill Newton Dunn MEP
Luisa Porritt MEP
Sheila Ritchie MEP
Irina Von Wiese MEP

Green Party
Molly Scott Cato MEP
Alexandra Phillips MEP
Magid Magid MEP
Scott Ainslie MEP
Ellie Chowns MEP
Gina Dowding MEP
Catherine Rowett MEP

Labour Party
Richard Corbett MEP
Seb Dance MEP
Jude Kirton-Darling MEP
Neena Gill MEP
John Howarth MEP
Theresa Griffin MEP
Jackie Jones MEP
Julie Ward MEP
Rory Palmer MEP
Claude Moraes MEP

Alliance Party
Naomi Long MEP

Plaid Cymru
Jill Evans MEP

Scottish National Party
Alyn Smith MEP
Aileen Mcleod MEP
Christian Allard MEP

Reading Pride 2019

Hi, it’s Chris from Judith’s office here. Judith is back in Brussels today, so I thought I would write about our day at Reading Pride last weekend.  

Reading Pride’s theme this year was #LoveUnites. Now in its 16th year, the festival was an amazing event where everyone met together in the spirit of openness and friendship, expressing themselves freely. Despite the world at large making steps towards equality, members of the LGBT community continue to face regular hostility and this gathering was a chance to show solidarity with groups across the globe who do not have the same freedoms. Unfortunately, even here in the UK there have been recent attacks on members of the LGBT community  –  there is still progress to be made. 

The Pride event itself was vibrant and eclectic, with colourful costumed people walking, singing and dancing their way through the streets of Reading. I joined in with the Reading Liberal Democrats for the day leaving from Broad Street 

The main festival site at King’s Meadow was packed with people. There were stallholders from a huge variety of businesses, charities and other organisations as well as delicious food stalls. What amazed me was the amount of people who wanted to stop and talk to us as Lib Dems. Inevitably, the topic du jour was Brexit. We ran a Brexitometer, on which we encouraged everyone to give their views on how the Brexit process is going and we found the results very interesting. 

It showed an overwhelmingly negative opinion of what the government is trying to achieve – a large majority of respondents said they thought that the best path for Britain was not to suspend parliament or to leave with no deal. Most want to Revoke Article 50 or hold a People’s Vote. There was definite uncertainty over whether a General Election would be best for Britain. 

But it wasn’t just Pro- Europeans who talked to us. I held some fascinating and eye-opening conversations with several Leavers who explained their viewpoints logically and reasonably. Although we disagreed on the points we were making, it was great to have a bit of genuine and respectful discussion on differing views – something you don’t find so often on the internet.  

It was great working alongside Judith who was sharing the message: “Tell your parents you want to stay” in an appeal to the younger generation, many of whom are still not able to vote. We hope that their voices will be heard by their parents and that they will feel a strong sense of engagement with politics going forward.

MEP Life- starter for 10

This week has been extraordinary from a political climate perspective and also in terms of the galvanising of thousands of people to step out of their usual lives and stand up to be counted to stop the current Government removing their say.

We need a People’s Parliament; a way for everyone to get their voices heard again. If Parliament is silenced, the people are silenced. We voted for them. They represent us. To suspend Parliament is a blow to the very democracy that Number 10 purports to protect. It was a cowardly act at the very time people need to see their MPs acting on their behalf. However chequered each constituency is in terms of voices, each deserves to have their opinions brought to parliament.

I was at College Green on Wednesday evening and was heartened by the show of support from (almost) every party and all walks of life. There was hope at this point that a legal petition could stop a suspension of parliament and our MEPs supported this move. So far, the work goes on… This week will bring profound changes to the UK. If you haven’t yet signed the petition against Proroguing Parliament do sign here. Still angry? Join us to #StopBrexit

This positive feeling continued throughout the week. Across the whole country people are clearly angry and determined to #StopBrexit and halt the imminent suspension of democracy.

 

My LibDem MEP and MP colleagues have been out speaking to their constituents throughout the past week. I caught up with @ReadingLibDems at the glorious Reading Pride on Saturday where, once again, hundreds of people took #StopBrexit stickers as well as filling out the Brexitometer. 

 

My different roles within the European Parliament mean that I sit on a number of committees and have a role on the EU Delegations to India and Korea. In such a role at the end of the week I met the Indian Foreign Minister, Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, and had a chance to speak to him about the current situation in Kashmir and Jammu. I challenged him to hold formal investigations into reports of beatings and torture and called on the Foreign Minister to respect and protect the human rights of all Indian citizens in this situation. I hope to meet with representatives from Kashmir next week.

This, as well as the work in the UK, shows me regularly the changes that can happen with collaboration, If we work towards a common purpose. I was elected to #StopBrexit and find common solutions that might be achieved with our closest neighbours. We work better when we work together, when we speak with the voice of many.

This coming week I will be back to work in Brussels on your behalf. Please continue to send me your questions and concerns, I love to hear from you, whatever your views.

Best wishes, Judith

 

 

MEP Judith Bunting calls on India to respect human rights of all citizens

Judith Bunting MEP responds to Kashmir worries, condemns human rights violations and use of excessive force in meeting with the Minister of External Affairs of India, Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

At a meeting in Brussels today with the Minister of External Affairs of India, Judith Bunting MEP for the South East of England condemned the use of violence and called on Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar to respect the human rights of all Indian citizens.

Ms Bunting vowed to consult with both India and Kashmir after the Modi government sent thousands of additional troops into the disputed region. She underlined the importance of constructive dialogue instead of the use of violence.

The Indian government has passed measures to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and split the state into two Union territories firmly under the control of the central government in New Delhi. 

During the meeting with the foreign minister, today, Judith Bunting underlined the importance of avoiding an escalation of tensions in Kashmir and in the region. She encouraged the minister to maintain diplomatic dialogue with Pakistan and engage with international observers and to be open about the situation in the region.

Ms Bunting called on the Indian Foreign Minister for restraint on the part of the Indian government.

Concerned by recent media reports of beating and torture, Ms Bunting requested a formal investigation into the perpetrators and for those responsible to be brought to justice.

After the meeting, Judith Bunting said: “We have strong Indian and Pakistani communities across the South East of England. Many people have been in touch, extremely worried about friends and family in the area.

I call on India to protect the human rights of all Indian citizens. The government must maintain respect for human dignity, freedom and the rule of law.”

Judith Bunting has a meeting with the Kashmiri representatives in the coming week.

#StopBrexit- the view from College Green on Wednesday

London on Wednesday; when Boris Johnson announced he was suspending Parliament, was extraordinary. Word spread on social media that people were gathering on College Green at 5:30 but we never imagined the numbers that would gather.

Arriving with my London Lib Dem colleagues, MEPs Dinesh Dhamija, Luisa Porritt and Irina von Wiese (pictured above), it was great to see flags and banners of all parties (except for Conservative) and none. The European Movement was well represented. It was great to see familiar faces from Berkshire for Europe underneath some of the flags.

At College Green, we heard from Green Remainers, Labour Remainers and I took to the stage myself to make the point that Johnson cannot be allowed to stifle the words of the people, the will of the people. He has suspended Parliament in a childish and cowardly fashion to close down debate among our MPs. But THEY represent US. WE voted for THEM. An attack on Parliament is an attack on the people. When Johnson shuts down Parliament, he shuts down the people.

This is not a Britain that I recognise.

The crowd, however, was fantastic. Varied in age, style and political persuasion, but everyone of one mind that we must defend British democracy.

This was a spontaneous Remain Alliance of thousands, marching together from College Green to Parliament Square then Downing Street. Then someone – inspired – called “Take it to the bridge” and the evening with finished with a final surge past the Whitehall War Memorial and on to Westminster Bridge.

The British people cannot let rich rogues like Johnson trash the UK for the sake of ego and American investments.

Stick with us, we can and will #StopBrexit.

Judith Bunting MEP slams Johnson’s move to stifle the voice of the people as ‘childish and cowardly’.

South East reels as Boris Johnson suspends Parliament.

Responding to the reports that the Government is expected to ask the Queen to suspend Parliament from mid-September, Liberal Democrat MEP for the South East, Judith Bunting said:

“Shutting down Parliament is a childish act of cowardice on the part of Boris Johnson.

“He knows the people would not choose a No Deal and that their elected representatives will not allow him to wreak such damage on the country. He is trying to stifle their voices.

“By suspending Parliament to force through a No Deal, Johnson, Cummings and the Government remove the voice of the people at the most important time. It is a dangerous and unacceptable course of action which all Liberal Democrats strongly oppose.

“MPs from all parties united earlier this week to avert a No Deal Brexit and to prevent an anti-democratic shut down of Parliament.

No one voted for a No Deal Brexit The dive toward No Deal is being driven by foreign interests and selfish egos who put their own investments and interests ahead of the country they are supposed to represent. Leave voters who I meet are starting to feel very uncomfortable with the way things are going. No Deal would be a catastrophe for our country and lead to recession and levels of unemployment not see in modern times.

The Government itself has admitted that it would cause shortages in medicines and food.

“The Liberal Democrats continue to work cross-party to prevent No Deal, and to fight to #StopBrexit altogether.”